I'm sure you have all heard of high blood pressure referred to as the silent killer. Well, there is another one lurking out there--slowly victimizing an incredible 78% of the American population.
This silent killer is inactivity. Are you surprised?
It may be hard to believe that an estimated 250,000 people die in our country every year because of inactivity, but the evidence is continually more convincing. Inactivity is second only to smoking, which causes 400,000 preventable deaths in the United States annually--more than auto accidents, breast cancer, colon cancer and alcohol combined.
We must change the way we think about exercise and what we do about
it. Regular exercise is just as important as not smoking or treating
high blood pressure.
One benefit is almost immediate: a noticeable increase in overall energy. I see this every day in my practice. People who don't exercise almost invariably say that their energy is not what they would like. If they start an exercise program, their energy not only improves dramatically, but they volunteer that they just feel better overall.
Exercise significantly improves self-esteem and helps prevent depression. When you come home from work and feel “stressed out,” try walking vigorously for 30 minutes. It is amazing how much better you will feel.
You'll also think and work better. When people claim they don't have
time to exercise, I suggest they will get more done more quickly. Exercise
improves concentration, creative thinking, and sleep. An electroencephalogram
(brain wave test) records deeper and more beneficial sleep after exercise.
This may partially explain why the energy level improves so dramatically.
The risk of developing colon cancer is decreased by half in people who exercise regularly.
Estrogen-dependent cancers (breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers) and prostate cancer are decreased with regular exercise.
The risk of dying from cancer declines sharply as exercise increases.
Heart attacks are reduced by 69% in the most active individuals who exercise more than 2.2 hours per week.
Regular weight-bearing exercise can reduce the incidence of osteoporosis,
a reduction of bone strength (and susceptibility to fractures) responsible
for thousands of deaths yearly in the U.S.
In a recent study, an exercise program improved memory and mental function in the elderly after just six weeks. In addition to the immune benefits above, seniors' regular exercise is associated with a lower risk of gastrointestinal hemorrhage.
Whatever your age, I hope I have convinced you to think of exercise
as integral to your health. Besides, it simply feels good. Get energized--and
don't fall victim to the real silent killer.
How much exercise? In a rather dramatic move, the CDC recommends that an adult accumulate 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. A brisk walk at three to four mph is an example. Presently, only about 22% of adults exercise for 30 minutes or more daily.
How to get started. Whatever exercise you choose, you can begin slowly and work up to 30 minutes, preferably daily. Don't worry about how long it takes.
Walking is probably one of the easiest ways to begin. It also helps to have a friend to exercise with. You should attempt to maintain a heart rate of about 70% of your "maximal predicted heart rate" calculated by subtracting your age from 220 and multiplying by 0.7. For example, if you are 40, then (220-40) x 0.7 = 126 beats per minute.
Risk: Be Sensible and Sensitive. Most adults do not need to see their physician before starting an exercise program. However, men over 40, and women over 50, with one or more risk factors for heart disease, should consult their physician. Also, always listen to your body and report any exercise related chest, throat, jaw or arm discomfort or unusual sensations to your physician.
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